A flurry of resolutions was floated for majority approval at the July 12 Kingston Common Council meeting, many of them authorizing Mayor Steve Noble to pursue New York State grant moneys, something at which the mayor has been indisputably effective over his six years in office.
Appointing Kristen Wilson as the city’s first grants manager upon his election in 2016, Noble has since overseen an operation which has steered tens of millions to City of Kingston coffers.
So successful were those early money chasing efforts, that the Office of Grants Management was created as its own city department in 2019. While the original director Wilson has moved on to a job with community revitalization juggernaut RUPCO, the city still finds itself flush with monetary awards.
The most recent grants activity update released in May of 2022 shows the city’s current portfolio boasts over $60,000,000 in awards from state and federal agencies, and private foundations. Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG funded projects are not included in the total.
Teed up for the mayor at the July 12 council meeting, after securing collaboration from the alderpersons, were resolutions to apply for grants to improve everything from wastewater infrastructure, manage municipal refrigerant and upgrade the sanitary sewer collection system and pump stations.
While these low hanging awards total $50,000 each, other resolutions also granted Mayor Noble the freedom to reach for more extravagant sums as well — $300,000 intended for a Brownfield Opportunity Area and two separate $500,000 grants, one intended to upgrade Dietz’s Stadium the other for a skate park in Kingston.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) a ‘brownfield’ is a property whose redevelopment, reuse or expansion is likely to be complicated by a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. The EPA’s brownfield program provides financial assistance to savvy city administrations looking to improve such sites.
All these grants are not cost free, but rather require a buy-in of anywhere from 10% to 50% matching funds from the city to compete for the prizes.
For instance, in order to pursue $50,000 made available from the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation the city has to pony up $12,500 of its own funds. Should the money be awarded, it would go towards the Wastewater Treatment Upgrades Project, an evidently wise use of leveraging funds.
However, the $167,000 needed to be put down to secure $500,000 from the NYS OPRHP (Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) for a skate park in the middle of a housing shortage could be heard by critical ears as a tone-deaf enterprise.
But the nature of grants is that their availabilities are often short lived and it may not be practical to wait around for steadier financial conditions that may or may not ever come after all, in any given mayoral term. And anyway, to come up with 33% of the grant funds sought, strategies of “in-kind donation, force account, another grant, private contributions, or even, if necessary, bonding can be requested.”
In the meantime though, the baked piece of pie known as the Stockade Business District Small Grants Program is also ready to get carved up and served. A resolution transferring funds totaling $600,000 dollars received the unanimous votes of those common councilmembers present.
With no local match required, that money comes courtesy of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and is intended to get spent on everything from residential improvements, business façade repairs to fulfilling the micro needs of enterprising individuals for items like machinery, business signage or even interior renovation.
$321,000 in CDBG will be cleared for the Mayor’s disbursement as well, monies that will be dedicated to the Mobil Mental Health Co-Response Team.
Renewing New York’s Main streets, supporting immigrant culture, development of viable urban communities, preserving that which ranks as historic, the resolutions grow thick.
The City Comptroller John Tuey is going to keep his job as well. Good news for the maximum accountant, the common council voted to renew his contract.
Actually the common council just barely made quorum. While the resolutions were voted upon, council members Steve Shabot and Barbara Hill were off vacationing and Alderwoman Michele Hirsch was counted present, but virtually, leaving five council members to fulfill quorum requirements. Every resolution but one passed unanimously.
A resolution transferring $4,800 from the city’s contingency funds to repair the beleaguered Council Chamber microphone system was greenlit. The system had terminally malfunctioned in February and has still been pointed to from time to time for the reason so many council committees have met behind closed doors ever since.
Recorded meetings are posted on the internet, and the minutes continue to be taken down by the city clerk for open public inspection after the fact.
Resolution 144, which declares a housing emergency, is set to receive its own public hearing on July 26. The practical consequence of that resolution is that owing to the vacancy rate presently being experienced here in Kingston, which is lower than 2%, the Emergency Tenant Protection Act will be activated, compelling rent stabilization upon buildings completed prior to January 1, 1974 having six or more rental units.
The Common Council will vote on the resolution on July 28 in a specially convened session.